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Warriors down Kings to square series, Knicks on the brink

Stephen Curry scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors held off a ferocious fourth-quarter fightback from the Sacramento Kings to secure a series-leveling 126-125 victory in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

Harrison Barnes almost snatched victory for Sacramento on the buzzer only to see his long-range effort bounce off the rim to leave the NBA champions celebrating a result that leaves them tied at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series after losing games one and two.

Curry breathed a sigh of relief after two uncharacteristic blunders almost proved costly in a frenetic finale at the Chase Center as the Warriors looked to close out victory.

The Warriors talisman missed a wide-open three-pointer with his team leading 126-121 that could have put Golden State eight points clear with less than a minute remaining.

Curry then compounded that rare miss by erroneously calling a time out when the Warriors had none left, earning a technical foul and allowing Sacramento’s Malik Monk to make it a four-point game with a free throw.

A superb De’Aaron Fox three-pointer from 28 feet then left Sacramento within one at 126-125, and when Curry missed another floater, the Kings had a chance to win it only to see Barnes’ late effort bounce out.

“It was kind of sloppy not knowing how many timeouts we had left, and a couple of dagger shots didn’t go in — but we did what we needed to do defensively in those last 10 seconds,” a relieved Curry said afterwards.

“We’ve protected home court, and now we move on.”

Barnes’ late miss was the final act of a thrilling battle between the Western Conference rivals that saw the lead change hands no fewer than 19 times as momentum ebbed and flowed throughout. 

Golden State looked to have turned the screw decisively in the third quarter, outscoring the Kings 37-23 to start the fourth with a 10-point advantage.

Sacramento however came surging back with a 7-0 run to start the final quarter and only a handful of points separated the two teams in a tense finale before the Warriors held on.

Curry led the Warriors scoring with 32 points while Klay Thompson added 26, including four three-pointers, and Jordan Poole 22. 

Andrew Wiggins added 18 points while Draymond Green, returning after suspension, had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists off the bench.

Fox produced a dazzling performance for Sacramento with 38 points while Keegan Murray added 23 and Monk 16.

Game five of the series takes place in Sacramento on Wednesday.

Knicks almost there

In the Eastern Conference, Jalen Brunson scored 29 points as the New York Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-93 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Brunson drained five three-pointers and finished with six assists and six rebounds to electrify a raucous Madison Square Garden.

The result leaves the Knicks needing just one win from three games to advance past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2013.

New York, which scored a dominant 99-79 victory in game three, looked poised for another big win after roaring to a 15-point lead in the second quarter.

But after the Knicks led by nine points at half-time, Cleveland fought back with a big third quarter, outscoring the hosts 26-19.

That helped the Cavs sneak into a narrow lead late in the third, but a sustained rally by the Knicks in the fourth settled a pulsating contest.

Brunson was one of four players in double figures with RJ Barrett providing offensive support with 26 points.

Josh Hart added 19 while Mitchell Robinson chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds to leave the Knicks firmly on course for an Eastern Conference semi-finals showdown with either Milwaukee or Miami.

Darius Garland led the Cleveland scoring with 23 points but Donovan Mitchell had a game to forget after finishing with just 11 points. The Cavs playmaker was restricted to just two points in the second half.

The series now heads back to Cleveland for game five on Wednesday.

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